Students at Bell High School sit in a group. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Orange County School of the Arts

Opinion: A Pass/Fail grading system should be implemented earlier

I’ve always been obsessed with achieving straight A’s on my report card. The school I attended from preschool through sixth grade pushed me to think that as long as you get an A, you can be happy, successful and financially stable in your career. But now, after growing up and putting so much pressure on myself to be a perfect student, I realize there is so much more to school than grades.

Recently, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, several schools are exploring the pass/fail grade system. Pass fail grades are S (satisfactory) or E (effort unsatisfactory). According to the U.S News and World Report, college officials are aiming to reduce pressure on students and encourage a focus on the outcome of learning.

The advantages of a pass/fail grading system include the fact that students perceive less pressure because they are not actively competing with their peers or worrying about letters and numbers. Instead, they can focus on comprehending and using the information they learn. Students can also focus on learning at their own pace, as a result of not having to focus on earning an A.

Unfortunately, there are detriments to this system as well. There are no exact scores, therefore, students are unable to see how well they are understanding the information given. Also, students have reported that grades are a big incentive for them to pay more attention in class and focus on the material. The absence of that incentive may cause students to become lazy and unfocused.

The editor in chief of Connect US described the positive and negative aspects of Pass/Fail. Among the pros, less stress, fairness and removing harmful stigmas were emphasized. On the other hand, reduced incentives, limiting competitiveness and the retention of grading bias stood out. It is clear that, as with most things, there are benefits and detriments to this form of learning.

Study International reports that with a pass and fail grading system, it is easier to even the playing field for students at an unfair advantage in regards to online learning. It allows for those who are financially or mentally at a disadvantage to have equal opportunities with those who are not.

The pass/fail system may have a few disadvantages, but the benefits of students being less stressed and more focused seem to outweigh them. I believe implementing a pass/fail system for students, starting while they are young, enforces the thought that grades are not everything. In a society obsessed with letters and numbers, we can pivot and preach focusing on important material and doing your best.